It’s been just over a quarter of a century since the UN convention on the rights of the child. Though there have been several improvements since then, here are five ways the international community is still not protecting children’s rights around the world:
1. Still not declaring ourselves on board with children’s rights
2. Allowing child marriage with parental consent
According to an article in the Guardian, 88% of countries around the world have agreed to set a minimum age of 18 or older for marriage. However, if you take out countries who allow child marriage with the approval of parents, the number of countries realistically protecting children drops down to 49%. For example, in Latin America, children in Uruguay can marry by age 12 with parental consent. In Mexico, Venezuela, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama and Bolivia: age 14. In Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Colombia, Dominican Republic, and Paraguay: 15-16. Researchers estimate that around the world, 150 million girls are still marrying before the age of 15.
3. Creating legal loopholes that allow child labor
According to the World Policy Analysis Centre, though 74% of countries no longer allow children to engage in work that may be dangerous to their health and well-being, in almost half of these countries, legal exceptions have allowed children to stay employed in these jobs regardless. For example, though India banned work by children under the age of 14. the cabinet recently approved a law allowing children under 14 to work in “family enterprises.” Some have argued that the law has made it easier for children to continue to be trafficked into sex slavery, bonded labor and other forms of exploitation, while claiming to be working under a “family business.”
4. Keeping children involved in military conflicts
Though over two thirds of UN countries have agreed to not recruit children into their military, according to the organization Child Soldier International over thirty countries still have minimum age recruitment requirements under 18 years.
Children are also often casualties amidst violence: according to reports by the United Nations, child casualties in Afghanistan increased last year by 48 percent to reach at least 2,500 children. 557 Palestinian children died last year, while Iraq’s death toll reached 700. This made 2014 Iraq’s deadliest year since the UN started documenting violations specifically against children in 2008.
5. …And allowing military conflicts to enter schools
Human Rights Watch reported that in Pakistan, last December, the Taliban killed over 100 children at a school, some as young as eight years old. In Palestine, Israeli airstrikes and shelling damaged over 500 schools in Gaza. In Nigeria, Boko Haram attacked over 300 schools, including the infamous abduction of over 250 girls in April of last year. Since 2005, a study found that schools and universities have been used for military purposes in over twenty countries.
To prevent this, 48 countries have joined an international Safe Schools Declaration since May. By joining the declaration, countries commit to avoid using educational buildings in military conflicts, including as targets of attack. Countries also commit to documenting casualties from attacks on education, and assisting victims however possible if one should occur. The United States has yet to join.